JBL Tour Pro 2 review: the screen-toting case is exciting, but the sound is just right

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JBL is well-known for its rock-solid audio equipment, the kind of shiny but affordable gems that frequently reveal themselves as diamonds in the rough and almost always sound great for the price. So what happens when the company deviates from its proven low-cost strategy to go all-in on a flagship set of all-guns-blazing, active noise-cancelling, screen-toting earbuds? Is our best noise-cancelling earphones guide poised to get a new addition?

The JBL Tour Pro 2 sits above (far above) the brand’s other earbuds, including the fantastic JBL Live Pro 2, which has possibly the best active noise cancellation at the level I’ve ever heard.

This is beautiful, dear reader. It’s delightful. It’s enjoyable, and it allows you to take calls with ease (how many times have we tried our hardest to touch the correct earpiece in the appropriate way, only to hang up on our pleasant caller?) It also enables easy, scrollable access to ANC profiles, alerts, spatial audio, and other features. During daily use, we find ourselves experimenting with EQ profiles and handy extras that would have seemed unworthy of the effort if they were hidden away in an app that required our phone. However, after a few days, the screen lost its “sparkle.”

Features:

The Personi-fi 2.0 software allows you to tailor the sound by instructing the buds whatever sonic profile sounds best to you. It begins with an environment noise check (you must be in a relatively calm area), followed by a wearing status check (you must have a good seal between the ear canal and the earbud). It then plays nine chirpy sounds in each ear, and you withdraw your finger when the sound becomes unnoticeable. We take this test twice and get different visual results each time. However, the second time around, we found the sound augmentation more appealing.

The Ear Canal Test (which must be performed in a noisy setting) displays another music video. After that, you may relax while the hybrid True Adaptive ANC handles the rest. We hear a small hiss after completion, but switching between ‘Leakage Compensation’ and ‘Ear Canal Compensation’ on the ‘Customize ANC’ panel largely eliminates it. We sit under an office heater at work and find it muffled by the Tour Pro 2 ANC, although certain low-level sounds (cars passing outside, heeled footsteps on concrete) do creep in. When you switch to the Apple AirPods Pro 2, things change dramatically. Low-level sounds are reduced on the Tour Pro 2, although some unnecessary background noise remains.

Sound:

These earbuds sound great. However, they are not amazing, as we would have expected given their pricing. Having said that, we did find a sound we liked in a variety of settings, and we believe they are better suited to some genres than others.

We tested with the many EQ profiles available and decided to leave them off in favor of Harman’s famous curve. That’s because we found the EQ sound profiles to be a touch disappointing, particularly the tinny vocals and distant studio sound. We didn’t detect any difference amongst the others.

My subjective impressions were confirmed when I used my colorimeter. The display on the ThinkBook 13x is quite bright at 417 nits, which is considerably above our We really liked the JBL Tour Pro 2 for easy listening and soulful music. Proxima Parada’s Musta Been a Ghost was smooth and well-balanced. The same can be stated about instrumental and ambient music, such as Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s score to Devs. We enjoy listening to it while working, and it offered a pleasant backdrop to our day. However, instrumental music only had a limited appeal. Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Joker soundtrack lacked the detail and power we expect from other buds. We had recently used the LG Tone Free T90Q buds and compared the two; the LGs were more expansive, powerful, and delightful to listen to.

It’s worth noting that spoken word sounded wonderful, and, surprisingly enough, the not-perfect-but-fine ANC, combined with this, made these good buds to wear outside if you enjoy walking and listening to audiobooks and podcasts. We don’t like feeling fully cut off from the world when we’re listening on the go, so these seemed like the best of both worlds.

Tracks with more bass or rock music did not sound as rich or strong as we had hoped. For example, the 2023 Remaster of Iggy & The Stooges’ Search and Destroy sounded slightly muddy, and we couldn’t tell the difference between instruments and voices as well as we would have liked, resulting in an overall flat feel. We recommend these earbuds for listening to music or podcasts while working. If you want audiophile quality or powerful tracks, whether classical or rock, we believe you will be disappointed here.

Design:

The JBL Tour Pro 2 features small stems, as do Apple’s AirPods, the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro, Huawei Freebuds Pro 2, and Nothing Ear (1), to name a few. Despite the fact that the driver housings appear a touch hefty at first glance, some of the team members with smaller ears downsize once and find that the earpieces fit perfectly with little tweaking. Those with larger ears, however, may struggle – only three ear tips are provided, and one of the team members was unable to establish a seal good enough to pass any of the fit tests (more on these in a moment) even with the largest pair, after tweaking them for many minutes.

Price:

The JBL Tour Pro 2 will be available in the United States in Spring 2023, after its release in most other territories in January 2023. The buds are $249.95 / £220 / AU$350 and come in champagne or black finishes.

This price puts them in direct competition with the likes of Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 ($249 / £249 / AU$399) and the Bose QuietComfort 2 ($299 / £279 / AU$429), some of the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today, a category in which the Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds also feature among the best, at $279.99 / £250 / AU$449.95 – though this particular set of earbuds is now available for much less than the original MSRP.

Conclusion:

Rarely have we looked at an earbuds case and been so wowed. You’ll love pulling it out of your pocket and amazing your friends. The fact that you can just tap the touchscreen on the case to accept phone calls saves a lot of effort (and stress), especially when your phone’s in your bag and you struggle with on-ear touch controls.

If you like to know for certain whether your buds fit correctly and the hearing tests sound interesting (they certainly are) the JBL Tour Pro 2 remain a compelling option.

Let’s start a discussion

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